Noosa swimmer Alexa Leary secures ticket to Paris Paralympics

Alexa Leary thanking her swim coach Jon Bell.

By Abbey Cannan

Noosa local Alexa Leary is living her ’second life’ to the fullest, swimming her way into securing a ticket to the Paris Paralympics.

The 22-year-old has inspired the nation at the Australian swimming trials, with her vibrant energy capturing the crowd’s attention.

Alexa said, “It’s nearly my three year anniversary since the accident, and I’ve had a lot of support along the way.“

“I’m really proud of myself as I’ve come so far.“

Despite her happy-go-lucky nature, it’s taken a lot of literal blood, sweat and tears to reach this point, and Alexa credits her swim coach Jon Bell for his support along the way.

“I was actually swimming when I first got out of hospital for rehab as it was one of the main things that the doctors wanted me to do,“ she said.

“My mum and dad were like ’Wow, she can still swim’.“

The Pomona cycling accident on 17 July 2021 left Lex fighting for life in hospital with a severe traumatic brain injury, a fractured scapula, ribs, shoulder blade and wrist, along with a major knee injury and a collapsed lung.

The traumatic crash took place after her bike clipped the wheel of a cyclist in front of her and she came off at high speeds of more than 65kms.

“I had to start a whole new life after the accident and I’m actually living my second life,“ Alexa said.

“I don’t have a memory of three years prior to the accident.“

When it came time for her 50m race on Tuesday 11 June, Alexa got into the zone by putting her headphones in and following her coach’s stretching directions.

“I looked at the time and I knew I could do the time but I was, of course, nervous as it’s a big thing to be able to make the Paralympics,“ she said.

The S9 100m freestyle world champion qualified for both the 50m freestyle on Tuesday and the Women’s 100m freestyle multi-class on Thursday.

“I managed to whip out the times and I was so proud of myself,“ she said.

Her parents Belinda and Russell have been there every step of the way cheering her on.

Mum Belinda said in a TV interview after the race, “She wasn’t meant to live, let alone walk or talk. To see her, such a big personality, we’ve got such a different daughter back.“

“I love her personality. She’s funny, she’s crazy, but most importantly she’s fulfilling her dreams — what she wanted to do prior. She always wanted to go to the Olympics.”

Her dad, Russell, said she had to prepare for the swim both mentally and physically.

“We couldn’t be more proud of her. She lit up a nation this week,“ he said.

“It’s a world wide stage but she takes it in her stride. I think I was more nervous than she was. You’re just so nervous for her because any little mistake can cost her the spot. Because her brain doesn’t react quickly, when the gun goes off she’s always a little bit behind. So, she’s got a lot to make up for the minute she starts racing.“

Before the accident, Alexa was a triathlete and wanted to go to the Olympics.

“She was always an amazing swimmer. As a young girl she won four national titles as a swimmer,“ Russell said.

“She qualifies in the Paralympics for her physical damage on the right side of her body, but she also has a severe traumatic brain injury, so she’s got two things to compete with.“

Russell said it was amazing to see the nation supporting Alexa’s journey to the Paralympics.

“I want to say a really big thank you for the Noosa community’s support when she had the accident and throughout the journey,“ he said.

“Without that community support, we wouldn’t have made it.“